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Don’t Accept Jesus

I am currently traveling away from family on military duty and I have the opportunity to stay in my own apartment in a major U.S. city. It was a blessing from God that I found this apartment. It’s right in the downtown area within walking distance to just about everything. It is fully furnished, comes at a great rate and the management has been supremely wonderful.

I arrived in my apartment early in the morning on a Monday and had to be to work within a few hours. I didn’t have much time to unpack or get settled in before the bed wooed me to sleep. One thing did stand out to me as I entered my apartment that caused me to think about my own faith. As I set down my bags in the living room I noticed two statues of Buddha adorning the corners of the living room. As I unpacked my things I had a mental discussion on whether or not I should move them or keep them.

Not being a follower of Buddha, I’m not intimidated by the statues. I know that they are just man-made idols representing a historical figure. I am fully aware to the fact that Buddhists don’t “worship Buddha,”  but rather follow his teachings. However, being the man of faith I am, I found the statues to be a bit distracting, so I carefully stored them in a bedroom closet.

I had a conversation a week later with the apartment manager whose apartment I am renting. She hadn’t realized that I am a pastor and when the topic came up in conversation she quickly told me that she was a Christian, though she struggled with being confident in saying Jesus’ name. She found it easy to talk about God, but when it came to Jesus, I could tell there was an uncomfortableness about him. I thought that to be interesting, in light of the fact that she also had two Buddha statues in her apartment. It is my personal belief that Buddha and Jesus cannot occupy the same space

I am reading The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer, and in the second chapter he makes the comment, “How tragic that we in this dark day have had our seeking done for us by our teachers. Everything is made to center upon the initial act of “accepting” Christ (a term, incidentally, which is not found in the Bible) and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him we need no more seek Him.”1

Many people stop at being saved and don’t pursue being sanctified. Once Jesus is accepted, then many people set their lives on cruise control. As I’ve pondered his perspective and my experience with my apartment manager I am coming to the conclusion that perhaps American Christianity has made “accepting Christ” the pinnacle of belief and not “pursuing Christ.”

In my encounter with my apartment manager I realized that it appears that she has accepted Jesus but is not in the process of pursuing Jesus. As a consequence, she can also accept other faiths, such as Buddhism, Hinduism and the like, which are contrary to being a faithful disciple of Jesus. Could this be the new form of Pantheism?

I am reminded of the encounter that Jesus had with the rich young ruler in the Gospel of Mark (see Mark 10:17-31). In this encounter with what would appear to be a very pious Jew, Jesus ends up turning him away due to the idol of wealth that had imprisoned his heart. Jesus never pulls any punches and actually calls everyone to a high calling to follow him. He doesn’t say to the young ruler, “Just accept me and you’ll be all good.” Jesus calls us to do more than just “accept him.” He calls us to die to ourselves and every other religion or philosophy. When we present the Gospel as something only to be accepted, we are really offering a watered-down version of Jesus.

I have heard it said, “You won’t be surprised who is in heaven. Rather, you will be surprised who’s not.” I think that the Christianity that has been offered in the past 50 years or so has been underwhelming and has created the notion that one can accept Jesus among a host of other religions; and Jesus will have none of that. He doesn’t merely want to be accepted, he wants to be followed and worshipped. He demands more than just a nod, he demands our very lives.

Let’s be honest, it’s much easier for Christians today to get their unsaved friends, family members and coworkers to “accept” Jesus instead of pursuing Jesus. It’s a much harder thing, and not as cool to our society, to convince someone that they must enter into a lifelong pursuit of giving Jesus everything, their heart, mind, soul and strength (Deut. 6:5).

The good news is that I see our society wanting something more than the Christianity that has been presented to them over the past several decades. There is a greater number of people who don’t identify with any religion but are open to spirituality. People don’t want something that is easy; they want something that is complete. Life is messy, but let us not use that as an excuse to offer a Gospel that is anything less than a lifelong pursuit of the God who is always pursuing us.

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